T-REX - Biography
Before finding teenybopper
adulation as a 1970s pop group T. Rex began life as
Tyrannosaurus Rex, darlings of the hippy/lighter weight
end of the UK Underground scene in 1960s London. The band was
founded by Marc Bolan in 1967 and gave one performance as a five
piece rock band at The Roundhouse before immediately breaking up in
disarray. Bolan retained the services of Steve Peregrin Took and the
duo began producing eccentric pastoral and folk tinged ditties
steeped in Tolkienian mythology, with spiritual homages to Gene
Vincent thrown into the whimsical mix for good measure.
The combination of Bolan's guitar
and cat-like wail with Steve Took's bongos and assorted percussion
(which often included children's instruments such as the Pixiephone)
gained them a devoted following on a thriving underground scene that
included the Incredible String Band and DJ John Peel, who befriended
them and ferried them to and from gigs in his mini and eventually
read stories written by Bolan on two of their albums. Another key
pairing was with the record producer Tony Visconti who went on to
produce all of their albums well into their second phase.
As Tyrannosaurus Rex Bolan and
Took recorded the albums
WERE FAIR AND HAD SKY IN THEIR HAIR ... BUT NOW THEY'RE CONTENT TO
WEAR STARS ON *THEIR BROWS 7/7/68.
Vocals, Acoustic guitar.
Took backing vocals, drums, pixiephone, percussion.
SEERS AND SAGES, THE ANGELS OF THE AGES 14/10/68.
Took bongos, African drums, kazoo, pixiephone, Chinese gong.
Took bongos, African drums, kazoo, pixiephone, Chinese gong.
The reverse cover of Unicorn
follows a convention begun by Dylan with Bringing It All Back
Home: the pair are pictured lurking in a Bayswater flat
surrounded by influences – LPs, books and objets d'art. These range
from the modish to the obscure – Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare,
The Bible, works of William Blake, a Muddy Waters LP, tabla drums
and toy cymbals etc. The photo sums up Bolan's earnest playfulness
and the duo's position as both typical within their scene and a
unique proposition, and the music on Unicorn, with its
melancholic grandeur, marks the high water mark for pixie-rock.
By 1969 there was a clear rift
between the two halves of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Bolan and his
girlfriend June Child (ex-girlfriend of Syd Barrett) were living a
quiet life, while Took was fully embracing the
anti-commercial/community spirited/drug taking ethics of the UK
Underground scene centred around Ladbroke Grove. Took was also
attracted to the most anarchistic elements such as Mick Farren/Deviants
and members of the Pink Fairies Rock 'n' Roll and Drinking Club.
By now Took was writing his own
songs and wanted the duo to perform some of them. Bolan, seeing
himself as the creative force behind the duo refused. Probably the
final straw for Bolan was when Took 'donated' two songs to Twink's
Think Pink album and ignored warnings by the management to
stop seeing members of the UK Underground.
Bolan sacked Took after Unicorn,
prior to their first ever US tour, although Took was contractually
obliged to go through with the tour. The tour was poorly promoted
and planned and because the acoustic duo were billed along side loud
electric acts Took commented later that the audience often didn't
even notice they'd started so in an Iggy Pop manner he stripped to
the waist and whipped himself.
Final Tyrannosaurus Rex Album
As soon as he returned to the UK
Bolan replaced Took with bongo player Mickey Finn which genuinely
was his real name. The final album under the name Tyrannosaurus
Rex was A Beard Of Stars (1970) featured Mickey Finn who
would remain with Bolan until 1975. Finn had no song writing
As well as progressively shorter
titles, the albums show increasing production values, more
accessible song writing from Bolan and experimentation with electric
guitars and a rock sound. The breakthrough with this was in King
of the Rumbling Spires (recorded with Steve Took) which used a
full rock band and which, despite the lyrical content, is a long way
removed from the first couple of albums. This purple patch also saw
the publication of The Warlock of Love, Bolan's book of
poems, derided by critics but which nevertheless became the
best-selling poetry book of its time.
The next album, entitled simply
T. Rex continued the process of simplification by shortening the
name and completed the move to electric guitars. (Legend has it the
Tony Visconti got fed up with writing the name out in full on studio
chitties and tapes and began to abbreviate it. When Bolan first
noticed he was furious, but later claimed it was his idea.) The
sound was altogether poppier and the first single, Ride a White
Swan, provided the first hit reaching #2 in the UK chart in late
Glam Rock is Born
Ride a White Swan was
quickly followed with a second, Hot Love. A band was hastily
formed and began to tour to increasing audiences, with teenage girls
(teeny boppers) replacing the hippies of old. Chelita Secunda
(wife of Tony Secunda manager to The Move and for a brief period
T.Rex) added two spots of glitter under the eyes of Bolan and Glam
rock was born. It would sweep the United Kingdom and many parts of
Europe during 1971/1972 and result in various artists of differing
The second T.Rex album, Electric
Warrior is considered by many to be their best and brought great
success. The music press at the time coined the term 'T.Rextasy' to
describe the audience reaction at their performances. A couple of
years of regular chart success followed, with hit singles such as
Metal Guru and Telegram Sam pouring off what came to
resemble a production line.
It was the "Electric Warrior" album
that produced T.Rex' best-known hit, "Get It On", which hit number
one on the British charts, while becoming a Top Ten hit in the U.S.,
where the song was retitled "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" (to avoid
confusion with another song called "Get It On", released the same
year of 1971 by the group Chase).
What comes after Up?
Down - Original members of
the band, began to leave in 1973, alienated by Bolan's increasingly
egotistical behaviour which resulted in part from the absence of
Bolan's regulating factor (his wife June Bolan) from 1973 onwards
when he began his relationship with Gloria Jones. Finn left in the
band in 1975. The second bongo player to be sacked by Bolan. Sadly,
too much money, success, Cocaine and Brandy resulted in Bolan,
always the fantasist with a Napoleon complex becoming more
Narcissistic and Egotistical. His success made him isolated from the
'real world' and high UK Tax rates drove him and many other
successful musicians into exile. No longer a vegetarian Bolan piled
on the weight on a diet of hamburgers and alcohol (His 'Fat-Elvis
phase'). Many of those who had suffered at the hands of his
hard-nosed drive to become a Star took the opportunity for
revenge and he was ridiculed in the Music Press.
What comes after Bottom?
Level-headedness? - By 1977
Bolan had hit rock bottom, much of his wealth had gone and he
managed to lose weight. This is no doubt largely due to the birth of
his only child - a son Rolan Bolan in September 1975. In March 1977
he performed what would be his final tour with the Punk Rock band
The Damned as support.
In September 1977 he recorded six
programmes for Granada Television to be screened during the
Children's Tea-Time slot. Bolan looked fit although perhaps a
little too thin and mimed through a number of old T.Rex songs with a
group of disinterested session musicians as T.Rex. His links
were delivered in exquisite Campness and an example was his
introduction for the Punk Rock band Generation X where he said the
lead singer was supposed to be as "pretty as me" (as he finished
delivering this line he sniffed a Carnation he had been delicately
The day a simple tree became
Bolan's Rock Shrine
Bolan was talking of getting back
to his roots and performing with his two original partners Mickey
Finn and Steve Took. This was not to be because he died when the car
(a Mini) driven by his girlfriend hit a tree in Barnes, South West
London, less than a Mile from his home in Richmond a few minutes
before 5:00 am on September 16, 1977.
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